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The Descriptor System, version 93/1
 


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Eurocode records information about food at the level of consumer knowledge of the food. Therefore, for analyses and comparisons of food consumption Eurocode 2 alone may be inadequate. For nutrient analysis or assessment of possible risks of food processing, additional descriptions of foods as consumed may be desirable. Descriptors are also useful for comparative analyses of food use for epidemiological, toxicological or other purposes. They provide variables which can be used to sort data sets. Details about heat treatment and processing methods of foood as consumed may be recorded in a consistent fashion throughout Europe with the descriptor system, which is a supplement to Eurocode.

What is the Descriptor System?

The Eurocode descriptor system is a semi-hierarchical system with 80 descriptors for describing the state of foods at the time of consumption in more detail than provided by Eurocode 2. It is meant to be added to the Eurocode 2 code by those who wish to use it. It is not designed to replace the food code. The descriptors are divided into main groups denoted by a letter. These are:

T      Thermal treatment at consumption
N      Non-thermal treatment
P      Preservation method / packing medium
A      Component added
R      Component removed
The descriptor system is designed specifically for more detailed coding of foods as consumed and reported in dietary intake studies. Within the system, descriptor subsets should be selected that are selected that are specific to the study goals. For example, a study designed to evaluate vitamin C intake should include questions on consumption of vitaminized soft drinks. The descriptors, because they are designed for dietary surveys, do not attempt to satisfy the degree of technical detail used in food technology.

Thermal Treatment at Consumption (T)

T1 Baked
Cooked by dry heat in an oven, no fat or oil added. Use for e.g. bread, potatoes, bakery goods. Do not use for foods covered with fat / oil (meat, nuts), use roasted.

T2 Barbecued
Cooked on grill bars over burning charcoal or wood.
Example: meat, chicken, fish, potatoes, tomatoes.
This descriptor can be used to specify the term 'griddled'.

T3 Blanched
Partially precooked prior to consumption, freezing, canning or drying by dipping into hot water for a short time.
Example: fruit, vegetables.

T4 Boiled
Cooked in boiling water at 100°.
Example: Carrots, peas, potatoes, meat, rice, pasta.

T5 Dried
Water removed in food, by natural or artificial means, usually by rapid evaporation
Example: vegetables, fruits, pulses, fish , milk.
Also use for 'instant' foods (coffee, soup, sauces)
Do not use for concentration (use component removed, water)

T6 Fried
Cooked in heated oil or fat. The fat or oil becomes an ingredient of the finished product.
Example: fish, meat, poultry. This descriptor can be used as generic term when frying method is insufficiently described.

T7 Deep fried
Cooked by immersion in heated fat or oil. May be preceded by coating the food in batter, breadcrumbs or flour.
Example: fish, chipped potatoes, dough-products, restructured meat (snacks).

T8 Shallow fried
Cooked in a shallow layer of heated oil or fat.
Example: eggs, bacon, chestnuts, bread.

T9 Stir fried
Cooked by frying food quickly over high heat, stirring constantly. Only enough cooking oil is used to cover the bottom of the pan.
Example: vegetables, beef with egg noodles.

T10 Griddled
Cooked on a heated flat metal surface. A little fat or oil may be used to grease the metal surface.
Example: griddled pancakes.

T11 Grilled (broiled)
Cooked rapidly without moisture, on grill bars under or over intense direct heat.
Example: poultry, beefsteak, cheese on toast, fruiting vegetables.

T12 Microwaved
Cooked in a microwave oven.

T13 Parboiled
Steaming of cereal grains to soften the husk. Nutrients are transferred from the bran to the endosperm.
Example: rice, wheat.

T14 Poached
Cooked by heating for a short time in a shallow layer of liquid held at just below the boiling point. Usually, care is taken to retain the shape of the food.
Example: eggs, fish, fruit, pudding.

T15 Roasted
Cooked by dry heat with the aid of fat or oil in an oven or over a fire.
Example: roast beef, chicken on a spit, potatoes or nuts.

T16 Scalded
Milk or cream heated to just below their boiling points for at least 30 minutes, then cooled to around 4°.

T17 Steamed
Cooked suspended above boiling water.
Example: vegetables, meat, potatoes.

T18 Pressure steamed
Cooked in a pressure cooker.

T19 Toasted
Cooked with direct dry heat at a high temperature until surface of the food is browned.
Example: bread, sandwiches, muesli.

T20 Uncooked (raw)
Not subjected to a heat treatment for a time sufficient to change flavour and textural characteristics. Used to identify foods that can be consumed in more than one statea and to capture information on food (such as weight) prior to cookingb.
Examplea: cauliflower eaten raw.
Exampleb: fish with bones before cooking.

T21 Stewed
Cooked by boiling or simmering in water (and other added liquids) contained in an enclosed vessel. Foods are stewed over a low heat for a long period of time.
Example: apples, meat.

T22 Canned
Generic term when the food is canned (and consequently treated with heat for preservation). The medium in which food is canned is listed under packing medium / preservation method (P).

Non-Thermal Treatment (N)

N1 Coated, batter
Covered by an outer layer of batter (flour, milk and egg mixture), usually prior to frying.
Example: fish.

N2 Coated, flour
Covered by an outer layer of flour which may be bound to the food with fat, milk or egg, usually prior to frying.
Example: liver.

N3 Grated
Rubbed over a metal or plastic tool so that the food is shredded into very small pieces.
Example: cheese, lemon peel, nutmeg.

N4 Mashed
One or more foods beaten or crushed to a soft pulpy uniform mass.
Example: potato, banana.

N5 Minced
Cut into very small pieces.
Use for meat only.

N6 Pureed
Food blended (manually, electrically) so that it forms a thick, smooth sauce.
Example: tomato puree, chestnut puree, meat, vegetables, fruit.

N7 High extraction rate
A high yield of flour obtained in the milling process.
Use for wholemeal products.

Preservation Method / Packing Medium (P)

P1 Packed
Generic term for packed food. The medium in which the food is packed may be consumed together with the food itself.
Example: instant soup in package, vegetables or fruits in glass, mayonnaise in tubes, ready-made meals in aluminium or plastic containers.
Do not use for temporary packing materials, such as paper or plastic bags for bread. If the packing medium such as oil or fat is known, use the more specific terms P2 - P7.

P2 Packed in oil or fat
Packing medium oil or fat.
Example: vegetables, fruits.

P3 Packed in water
Packing medium water, salted or unsalted.
Example: vegetables, fruits.

P4 Packed in juice
Packing medium is the natural fluid or environment of the food.
Example: vegetables, fruits, seafood.

P5 Packed in syrup
Packing medium (concentrated) sweetened water or (concentrated) sweetened fruit juice.
Example: fruits in heavy / light syrup.

P6 Packed in sauce
Packing medium sauces of different bases.
Example: beans in tomato sauce, pasta in cheese sauce.

P7 Packed in aspic / gelatine
Packing medium aspic / gelatine.
Example: corned beef, eel, ox-tongue.

P8 Chemically preserved
Preserved by the use of chemicals to destroy, suppress or inhibit undesirable microbial and enzyme activity.
Example: nitrite in bacon, ham and cheese, sorbic acid in wine, sulphur dioxide in fruits, vegetables, sausages, beverages.

P9 Cured / aged
Stored under controlled conditions to achieve desired properties.
Example: wine, meat, cheese.

P10 Fermented
Complex organic substances transformed into simple molecules by the action of micro-organisms or enzymes under controlled conditions.
Example: cultured milk products, sauerkraut, sausages, beer, wine, soya-sauce, tea.

P11 Filtered
Preserved by filtering out yeasts and moulds.

P12 Irradiation
Preserved by radiation from various sources (gamma ray, electron beam ray ultrasound, ultraviolet) to destroy or suppress undesirable micro-organisms or enzyme activity.

P13 Salted
Used for foods preserved as salt concentrates in order to suppress undesirable micro-organisms or enzyme activity.
Example: vegetables, fish in brine.
Do not use for foods salted merely to enhance flavour.

P14 Smoked
Preserved by exposure to smoke from smouldering hard woods (oak, elm) or artificial smoke-aromas. It usually follows salting.
Example: cheese, ham, salmon.

P15 Pasteurized
Treated by heat to destroy most but not all pathogenic and food spoilage orgamisms. Time and temperature depend on the specific method used.
Example: milk, cream, white wine, fruit (juice), fish.

P16 Sterilized
Rendered sterile by holding at high temperature before or after packing in a sealed container.
Example: milk, cream, meat, soups, fish, coffee creamer.

P17 UHT-treated
Rendered sterile by exposure to ultra high temperatures for a short time, then aseptically packed in a sealed container.
Example: milk.

P18 Marinaded
Steeped in a mixture of oil, vinegar, spices etc. before cooking it, so that it can develop a special flavour or become softer.
Example: meat, fish.

P19 Frozen
Preserved by freezing a food product and keeping it at a temperature below the freezing point.
Example: vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, bakery products, bread, prepared meals.

P20 Pickled
Immersed in a solution of salt and vinegar for preservation.
Example: fish, fruit, eggs.

Component Added (A)

A1 Sugar / honey
Sugar (syrups) or honey added during preparation to enhance the flavour of the food.
Example: sucrose, fructose, glucose / maple syrups, brown sugar.

A2 Artificial sweetener / light products
Artificial sweetening substances added during processing or preparation to enhance the flavour of the food.
Example: saccharine, cyclamates, sorbitol, aspartame in beverages, fruit juices, bakery goods, puddings. This descriptor is used for 'light' products.

A3 Water (=dilution)
Water added to a food beyond its natural water level to thin or weaken it.
Example: milk, soup, beverages.
Do not use for concentrated or dried foods (instant soups, sauces, coffee): Eurocode lists food as consumed.

A4 Vitamins
Vitamins added to enhance the nutritional status of foods.
Example: sweets fortified with vitamin C.
Use text for further specification.

A5 Minerals
Minerals added to enhance the nutritional status of foods.
Example: calcium added to milk, iron added to bread, iodine added to salt.

A6 Flavouring, chocolate
Used when an ingredient is added for the purpose of imparting artificial chocolate flavour or taste.
Example: chocolate milk, chocolate ice-cream.
Do not use for real chocolate added.

A7 Flavouring, fruit
Used when an ingredient is added for the purpose of imparting artificial fruit flavour or taste.
Example: fruit yoghurt, puddings.
Do not use for real fruit added.

A8 Grains / nuts / seeds
Used when grain, grain products, nuts or seeds are added in small amounts to a food.
Example: nuts or seeds added to bread, bakery products.
Do not use for breakfast cereals.

A9 Fruit
Used when fruit (mixtures) are added in small amounts to a food.
Example: yoghurts, dairy products, beverages.

A10 Fibre
Used when fibre is added as a flavouring agent to a food.
Example: bran added to bread.

A11 Salt
Used when salt is added as a flavouring agent, not for preservation,
Example: eggs, water (for boiling), soup, meat.

A12 Alcohol
Used when alcohol is added as a flavouring agent.
Example: brandied cherries or peaches, portwine added to cheese.
Do not use for larger amount, such as Irish coffee. List the specific ingredients.

Component Removed (R)

R1 Sugar
Used when sugar is substituted by an unknown sweetener.

R2 Caffeine
Used for coffee and cola drinks.

R3 Water
Used for a liquid or solid product from which a significant amount of water has been removed (concentration), or for products which have had less water added during preparations (e.g. instant soups).
Example: soups, fruit juices (= syrups).
Do not use for dried, dehydrated products including powders such as instant soups, sauces, potatoes or coffee and condensed or evaporated milk.

R4 Skin / peel
Use for food from which the outer edible layer has been removed.
Example: poultry, fruits, vegetables.

R5 Crust
Use for e.g. cheeses and grain products.

R6 Non-edible part
Use for foods from which the non-edible part has been removed.
Example: bone (meat, fish), shell (eggs, nuts, crustaceans), nonedible plant parts (artichoke).

R7 Visible fat
Use for meat, milk, soups, sauces etc.


 


Ian Unwin
Posted:  12 March 1999